Search Engine's YouTube channel launches: Does the Internet make you dumber?

Our friends at the brilliant TVOntario tech podcast Search Engine have launched a YouTube channel. The inaugural episode, "Does the Internet Make You Dumber?" is fun, informative, and 3 minutes long.

Search Engine Video #1: Does the Internet Make You Dumber? (Thanks, Jesse!)


    1. 1) Boss beard, Jesse.

      2) If you get so heated up, stop using Klieg lights ;-p (high-intensity LEDs, anyone?)…or lose the necktie.

      3) I agree with the essentials of your argument. Intelligence isn’t i) knowledge, ii) memorization, iii) some other stuff.

      4) On Nicholas Carr’s blog, he ‘tackles’ the subject of the medium vs. the message, here:
      The medium, in other words, doesn’t matter.

      But Mr. Tracy is wrong. The medium does matter. It matters greatly. The experience of reading words on a networked computer, whether it’s a PC, an iPhone, or a Kindle, is very different from the experience of reading those same words in a book.

      While I agree that it’s difficult to read and absorb more than one screenful of text on a usual computer screen, it’s really not the same on a well-designed/sized e-reader. I regularly D/L articles, research papers, and complete books and move these onto my iLiad. I think it’s better than a paper book, as far as reading/concentrating.

      What’s Carr’s problem with concentration? Maybe it’s his age? Or because he’s ‘Mercan, a lack of bilingualism?
      (Didn’t some other ‘Harvard’-types argue that learning two languages would just confuse kids and make them dumber? Plus ça change, eh?)

      and later on:
      My own reading and thinking habits have shifted dramatically since I first logged onto the Web fifteen or so years ago. I now do the bulk of my reading and researching online. And my brain has changed as a result. Even as I’ve become more adept at navigating the rapids of the Net, I have experienced a steady decay in my ability to sustain my attention.

      So, in essence, his argument is that:
      a) Before he went online, he was smarter – and this is when he thought that going online was a good idea;
      b) Since he’s been online, he’s gotten dumber – and now he thinks that going online is a bad idea.

      Aah, a Harvard edumacation!

    2. Fortunately they have this cool technology that they can apply to the head to take care of things like that.

      You can see it several times in this video casting a shadow on the interlocutors face, cooling him down completely discreetly, and not being at all distracting.

      Didn’t they want to look on wikipedia for things like “8-point matte” or “motion tracking”?

      1. Oh, crap, I didn’t realize I was responding directly to you. That makes me a huge a-hole.

        Let me rephrase: Um, use a flag on the lights, or spend five more minutes with the junk matte and this will look a lot better and seem more professional.

  1. Yeah, it’s posts like this that make me worry. No, memory is not the defining trait of intelligence, it’s just something that makes your intelligence WAY more useful. Your ability to remember ideas and details, and then roll them around in your very intelligent mind, is what allows us to come up with new ideas and views on complex matters. Otherwise you’re just a really smart stoner trying to find his keys.

    Intelligence isn’t knowledge, it’s true, but lack of knowledge is ignorance, and I’d take a worldly idiot over an ignorant brainiac any day.

    Perhaps being “intelligent” is the combination of a basic ability to think AND memorize AND possession a formidable knowledge base, and then finding a way to make them all work together. I was always under the impression that was how intelligence worked.

    I know politicians claim “Mission Accomplished!” by lowering the bar on accomplishment, but do we really all have to follow their lead in regard to intelligence??

    1. …and I’d take a worldly idiot over an ignorant brainiac any day.

      It’s your choice, of course, but I think most people prefer the opposite. After all, the internet itself is already the perfect worldly fool, but ignorant brainiacs are harder to come by.

      1. And that is perhaps exactly the problem, we do prefer ignorant people over worldly people, and so you get theologians and Republicans and Prop 8 supporters. I know many very “smart” people who think gays are an abomination and that invading Iraq was exactly what the US should have done and we should invade more people. They’ll even give long winded and complex reasons as to why they’re right. I guess I imagine an imbecile with a good amount of knowledge will not have the capacity to do much harm with that knowledge, or at the very least will come to the simple conclusion they shouldn’t do harm in general. But, to each their own.

        1. Nobody said anything about preferring ignorance in general. But a truly smart person will understand their limits, so if they’re ignorant about something, they should know it and judge accordingly. But the examples you gave weren’t clever in that way – they’re not just uninformed but misinformed.

  2. I’ve been slowly chewing my way through the Search Engine archives (post-CBC at least) and even though I don’t consider myself much of a tech person, it’s really great. Really involving and interesting and it never feels too dense or dumbed down. Really great stuff.

  3. Why is it such a surprise that a medium which uses one skill-set trains and conditions our minds in a way that does not benefit us when interacting with another medium that uses another skill-set? Humans are good at focusing on single expertises, and even shifting between mediums can “make us dumber” by distracting from the subject while our minds are adjusting to a different medium.

    Regardless, looks awesome, Jesse.

  4. Before the internet existed, Everyone had great attention spans, better memory, and wouldn’t hesitate to read long, involved jargon-y academic writing to get their information. I remember people being noticeably smarter before the internet took off.


    Those books are another example of academics jumping on a bandwagon to sell books and make themselves important without doing real work, research, and/or any unique thinking.
    Go Jesse for calling them out!

  5. It’s hard not to notice that the people who are saying the internet makes us dumb are a bunch of fossils who were educated before the internet came into power.

    I bet they spent most of their youth trying to convince their parents that comic books didn’t make them stupider.

    1. Technically they’re saying we’re not paying attention well enough to use our intelligence. Splitting hairs a bit, but you get the idea.

  6. Personally, I have worse memory and attention span for casual diversions, since there are so many of them and they’re so easy to check on. For things I’m truly interested in, I think I’m about the same.

    1. ^win

      but seriously, people whine about new tech all the time. Remember the recent BBed article talking about the END OF INTELLIGENT DISCOURSE.. because of the Telegraph.

  7. Personally, I think intelligence is the ability to efficiently apply your existing mental faculties.

    I’ve always been terrible at memorizing large, unassociated information.
    But, my mind is usually able to just pick-out what I need to know, to get a task done.

    Being able to understand the nature of information, and to distill it into a form that is appropriate for you is, I think, what makes someone intelligent.

  8. Intelligence is the ability to solve problems. Many problems are large enough that they take a concerted effort over a long period to solve. If the person trying to solve the problem becomes bored and distracted, the problem will not be solved – ergo that person is not as intelligent.

  9. This clip made me happy. A change is going on; the difference between what was and what is never can be put on a clear and balanced scale. A new way of thinking IS emerging from internet use – it is awesome for those living it, less awesome for those who feel that they have been replaced and can only judge what they see happening with their own experiences and histories. The question is how to bridge the gap while the change happens. The least we can do to start is acknowledging the differences and what the changes that are happening are.

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